First Reading: Exodus 34: 4B-6, 8-9
Responsorial Psalm: Daniel 3: 52, 53, 54, 55, 56
Second Reading: Second Corinthians 13: 11-13
Gospel: John 3: 16-18
Walking in the early morning, whether through the Latinx neighborhoods of Chicago or on the streets of Paris one is often greeted with the wonderful aromas from the local neighborhood panaderias or boulangeries. There is no denying that these aromas from these bakeries make one hunger for bread. Even if you were not hungry before the fresh aromas took residence in your body, you are now. Although bread consists of a few simple ingredients, it possesses the power to transport us to a place that is both familiar and yet new. As the baker’s t-shirt read: “Je Reve de Pain” (I dream of bread). Who doesn’t? Right?
Recently, I became aware that there is something deeply comforting and holy about bread, especially during this time of pandemic. Apparently, others too are feeling this because according to the famed producer of flour, King Flour, there is now a flour shortage. It appears that a lot of folks are baking during these days of uncertainty and “shelter in places”. I am not sure that this is all about hunger or boredom. Rather, I think the rise in baking is more about a desire for the familiar… a taste for connecting to what once was. Bread seems to connect us to what is good and simple, especially when the world is complex. There is nothing more satisfying than to feel the warm bread in your hands, hear the familiar crunch of the bread’s breaking, and see the lavish spread of mantequilla butter. Yes, the ghost of Julia Child still accompanies me. God is present.
Often a quick stop at the bakery consumes us with happiness. Hardly is one ever disappointed with the encounter in the bakery. On the contrary, we are nourished physically and spiritually by the bread that we eat and the communion of conversations; we are ready for whatever the day brings. Many have been the mornings that I have purchased a warm baguette at a bakery on the Left Bank in Paris. No sooner do I walk out the door that I notice myself already breaking off the top of the loaf, anticipating the bread’s consumption. The bread is not only fresh and delicious, it is also so very satisfying. Bread seems to heal our maladies and makes our spirit soar. “Je Reve de Pain.” God is present.
In our Exodus reading for today, God is present in another way. God is present in the form of a cloud among, what the scripture describes as, a stiff-necked people. This cloud reveals not only God’s presence but also reminds them that God is merciful and gracious. At the urging of Moses, God leads the people through the wilderness. The image of the cloud serves as a constant reminder that God is among them and accompanies them in a real way. The people had struggled in their relationship with God. This is obvious when Moses asks that God pardon their wickedness and sins and to receive them as God’s own. The covenant language that is used reinforces for the people that they are loved and covenant partners with God. While frustration and doubt may have crept into their daily lives, God’s love is more powerful and will not disappoint. The people can trust in God’s love and mercy even in uncertain times. It is God who will accompany them to the familiar and yet new. God is present.
On this Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, we are once again reminded that God is present in our lives as God was once present to the people in the wilderness. Our own struggle in the wilderness of this pandemic will not have the last word. Perhaps, we are tired and frustrated or even scared during this unprecedented time of Covid-19. We might feel disconnected from our families, friends or even our church community but God’s promise remains and reminds us that we are not alone in the struggle nor do we go through it alone. The image of the Trinity offers us another understanding of who God is for us. It underscores God’s goodness and relational nature. God understands us and loves us and in that understanding and love, God is in relationship with us as we are with one another. Nothing is hidden from God. God is present.
We may want to return to what was familiar and normal. But if we are patient, trust in the God who loves understands, and is in relationship with us, there is the possibility of a new normal in our future. A future where the words of Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians will greet us and remain for us a blessing:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
God is indeed present, today and always!
Rev. Eddie De León, CMF
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Preaching